ASHLAND, Ore. — It's been a long, one and a half years for Jaxon Clark. That's how long it's been since the All-Conference punter's right leg (which serves as his kicking leg) had the tibia and fibula broken. But he's back on the gridiron for the Southern Oregon Raiders.
The first time back on just the practice field almost overwhelmed him with emotion.
"First time back definitely almost had a few tears to jog onto the field for the first time since April 12," Jaxon Clark said. "It's really great to be back. And the coaches and players have welcomed me back with open arms and I'm really happy to be here."
Just recently, Clark was cleared by his doctor to resume full kicking activities. Even on Friday, the Grants Pass-native was booming 50-yard punts after practice. It's a sight the Raiders special teams coordinator doesn't get tired of seeing.
"To have an all-conference player back at any position is awesome," Bryan Sander said. "And when you get a player like that who has the ability to flip the field and pin the guys down... and do it consistently makes the defense's job that much more easy and doable and it puts the offense in good position to score at a higher rate."
Clark hopes to lead a strong kicking unit for SOU in his final year with the team. He's joined by Graycen Kennedy, a placekicker entering his second year with the Raiders after transferring before last season from Portland State. Burdened by inconsistencies and a nagging groin injury, Kennedy worked hard in the offseason to improve his confidence.
"As a kicker, it's all mind games so if you get in your head too much, you won't kick good," Kennedy said. "So just having fun and remembering it's just a game, but going out and doing the best you can, I think that's the culture we're trying to build as a kicking crew."